At this point, dash cams have become such a common part of our lives that it’s almost strange to run into someone who doesn’t have one in their car — or to not have one yourself. When they originally debuted, they were essentially only for law enforcement. Flash forward to today, and anybody can get a powerful little device capable of recording full HD video for a few hundred dollars or less in most situations.

Dash CameraAverage people use them for everything — from keeping better track of novice teenage drivers to protecting themselves in the event of a car accident to even scoring a sizable discount on their monthly auto insurance. The technology has evolved exponentially, to the point where new uses are being discovered practically every day.

But all throughout that time, law enforcement has still made use of dash cams on a regular basis — especially when it comes to training people who are about to head out on the job for the first time. In fact, law enforcement agencies around the country use dash cam videos for police officer training on a regular basis in a number of ways that are worth exploring.

Officer Training and Dash Cams: The Story So Far

Dash cams have become so powerful that a lot of local agencies, in particular, are regularly using them not only as a broad teaching tool, but to better track and monitor the performance of individual officers. In other words, they’re a tool to be used by both the instructor and the student, depending on the lesson taking place at any given moment.

To speak to the former perspective, instructors regularly use dash cams as a way to gain real-time insight into what techniques officers are using in actual situations, providing immediate feedback on their performance. It’s a way for instructors to act as an almost omniscient, third-party observer. They can see how someone reacts in routine situations and critical ones, allowing them to compare and contrast the two to offer a better, more intimate and more organic type of one-on-one training that wouldn’t be possible in a more “formal” environment.

One expert likened the technique to the way a football coach might use game film to review an athlete’s performance. Not only can you see the positive things that are happening, but you can also see bad habits as they form — thus taking steps to put a stop to them before they become ingrained in that officer’s way of doing things.

Likewise, students can use dash cams to review their own performance, taking a closer look at some of the variables that are at play that may affect the decisions they’re making in a broader way. In their mind, a traffic stop may be just a traffic stop. But the footage reveals a different story. They can see how the environmental conditions ultimately impacted the decisions they made or the threats that were created that they may have been unaware of in the moment. They can also see a laundry list of things that could have caused some type of performance deterioration as a situation escalated. A camera helps better expose all of these things in a way that nearly every officer — even seasoned veterans — can benefit from moving forward.

At this point, it’s safe to say that dash cams have evolved far beyond their original intentions as just a way to easily record footage that could be reviewed at a later date. In nearly every industry, they’re being used to allow people to work “smarter, not harder” — uncovering the type of valuable insight that would have otherwise gone undiscovered as recently as a decade ago. When you consider just how far dash cams have come in even a few short years, it’s truly exciting to think about what the next few have in store — particularly from a local law enforcement perspective.